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Comment from the book world in February 2012

February 2012

'Fall in children's reading'

27 February 2012

'The National Literacy TrustUK-based organisation which has campaigned since 1993 to improve literacy standards across all age groups. Excellent research information and details of the many initiatives the charity is currently involved in. It also has a useful page of news stories on UK literacy, which links to newsletter will soon publish new research that confirms that... between 2005 and 2011 the number of children who read fiction outside of the classroom has fallen from 51% to 46%. But these figures mask a much more alarming trend for boys' reading. Over the same period the gap between number of boys and girls who read fiction has increased from 3% to 10%.

However the research suggests that children are not simply switching from print to digital... Something more worrying is going on. The reading of almost all formats was down over the same period: websites fell from 63% to 49%, even emails fell from 53% to 50%

In fact, between 2005 and 2011 the number of children who read in any format every day went down from 38% to 29%, and the number of children who say they rarely or never read outside of class has gone up from 15% to 24%.

We are not seeing a migration from print to digital reading among young people, we are seeing reading falling in overall popularity as a leisure activity. We know that viewing video online is becoming more popular for all internet users than reading text. Reading itself is being squeezed.

How do we respond to this cultural trend and promote reading as relevant and irresistible?

The most important thing is to recognise that we are promoting reading, not one type of reading against another. In an age when the Man Booker Prize winner is likely to be read on a Kindle, to suggest that fiction reading is under threat from reading emails is like suggesting that the novel has been threatened for ages by the reading of letters. Approaches which promote all reading are needed. The technologies of reading are more dynamic than ever. The more we celebrate this energy, the more successful our promotion of reading will be. '

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the UK National Literacy Trust in his blog

'It's therapeutic, it's cathartic, it's exciting, it's engaging.'

20 February 2012

'In November I'll start to think about the next book. In January I'll begin writing it, deliver it in June, in July it'll be edited, August is the holidays. September I'll start doing pre-publication interviews, it'll come out in October and I'll' go on the road again. It's like working on a production line, there's not an awful lot of time to sit around chewing the fat with Salman Rushdie, even if he wanted to...

But it's a really nice treadmill. It's only a treadmill in that you'd be letting down the fans, who want a fix every year. Even John Grisham and James Patterson still punt out at least a book every year. Why are they writing with all that money in the bank? They're writing because that's how they make sense of the world, it's what they've always done...

It's a very pleasurable way to spend your time. It's therapeutic, it's cathartic, it's exciting, it's engaging. In real life writers tend to be quite boring, but in our books we're having exciting adventures all the time. I can't think of anything better than that, and it keeps you well balanced because all the shit inside your head goes on paper. I think we'd be troublesome individuals if we didn't get all that shit out of our systems.'

Ian Rankin, author of The Impossible Dead in the Independent on Sunday

'A bit of a bisexual'

13 February 2012

'I think the short story's a bit of a bisexual - it takes from prose what's great about prose, the wide-angle lens and the interest in psychology and character. And then it takes from poetry the distillation of language and the complete ease at using metaphors and images and motifs. And also a love of the spoken voice and a concern about voice and rhythm, and those moments of crisis in which characters are caught, just like poems about people which explore crises, moments of deep meaning in one way or another.'

Jackie Kay in The Poetry Paper